Prof. Ram Puniyani, General Secretary, Centre for the Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai, was the guest speaker at the occasion.
In his presentation, Prof. Puniyani talked in detail about the concept of secularism in South Asia and the failure of regional countries to prevent the forces of intolerance, militancy, radicalization and extremism from gaining ground.
He further discussed about the role of religion in for promoting harmony, tolerance and peace in society but the clergy of the South Asia whether belonging in Muslim and Hindus religious was promoting and patronizing communal and sectarian groups.
He said that while Europe was able to marginalize the influence of clergy and nobility and was able to promote a secular order, but in South Asia the countries of region are unable to reduce the negative influence of clergy and exploitation of religion for political purposes.
He argued that the one way to establish peace in South Asia was to promote the culture of tolerance and accommodation so that those groups who use religion in society are neutralized. In the end of this talk, he made it clear that secularism cannot be against religion. It only suggests that state must play a neutral role on religious matters.
Prof. Dr. Moonis Ahmar, Director, Area Study Centre for Europe in his concluding remarks said that the need is to redefine the concept of secularism because of the misconception and ignorance which people have about f secularism. He also argued that religious intolerance is no doubt a major threat to the process of peace in South Asia. With better education. research and development it is possible to promote secular values in order to provide social justice, equality and protection f the rights of minorities.
According to him, in case of Europe, the process of secularism was launched several centuries ago in South Asia, what is required is the age of enlightenment and a rational approach to deal with religious matters.
At the end of the programme Director, Area Study Centre for Europe presented a shield and a set of publications of the Centre to Prof. Ram Puniyani and Ms. Munnazza Kazmi.